Friday, December 13, 2013

A few hummingbird photos

Here are a few photos of a juvenile male Anna's hummingbird (Calypte anna) with Mexican brush sage (Salvia leucantha).  I like the photos at the end because he has pollen on his bill.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

That's whale for YUM

For the past few months I have been seeing and hearing stories about all of the humpback in the Santa Barbara Channel. I spend a lot of time on the water in the channel, but not where the humpbacks have been in a feeding frenzy. I finally got my butt out on the Condor Express whale watch boat on a beautiful day. We got to see a few thousand common dolphins, and a handful of humpback and minke whales. Because of the amazing conditions and the high volume of foraging cetaceans, it was really hard to count what we were actually seeing. It was somewhere in the range of 3-6 humpbacks, 3-5 minkes, and about 2000 common dolphins.

I'm going to start this post with the dolphin photos. Common dolphins (Delphinus capensis, which is defined as the long-beaked common dolphin) may have a lame name, but don't let that fool you, they are very interesting! There are two species of common dolphins. Short and long beaked. The species are hard to tell apart, but the long-beaked are known more commonly close to shore and in warmer waters. I am a fan of any dolphin that likes to bow and wake ride along with the boat (which is my favorite, especially when I am driving). These dolphins were mostly focused on the large groups of anchovies- which you can see in some of the photos. They work cooperatively with the other dolphins in their pod to corral the fish into a tight group and then take turns swimming through and grabbing fish. While feeding, they are very vocal with clicks and chirps.

After the dolphin photos, the humpbacks begin. Humpback whales are generally in California in the summer. November 30 is a bit late for the season, but since there is such a big abundance of anchovies for them to eat, they are still hanging out in the channel. After they leave this area, they will be heading south to Mexico and farther to where they mate and give birth. The photos below are first of a single male and then a mom and calf both choosing to lunge feed. Lunge feeding is common when the food is right at the surface. The whale will lunge up and out of the water with its giant mouth open catching as many fish as it can and then once underwater again, uses its baleen to push out the excess water.

Long- beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis)

Long- beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis)

Long- beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis)

Long- beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis) surfing in the wake of our boat

Long- beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis)
Bait ball of anchovies (Engraulis mordax) looking for cover under our boat.

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) lunge feeding. Notice a few lucky anchovies that temporarily avoided the whale's mouth.

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) blowing at the surface. I like this photo because of the gull that is getting blasted with water.

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) mom and calf. The mom's pectoral fin is the darker fin and the calf has the all white fin. You can also see a few sea lions and dolphins around the whales.
Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) mom and calf. This is the calf's all white fluke.

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) fluke. (mom)

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) calf after lunge feeding.
Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) mom approaching the boat. The light green is the pectoral fins.

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) and California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) with a little bit of a rainbow from the whale's spout.

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) mom lunge feeding with a common dolphin (Delphinus capensis) in the background.

I usually save the best for last. Here it is, my favorite photo of the day. The mom and calf both lunging together with a really good view of anchovies spilling out of the mom's mouth.
Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) mom and calf lunge feeding on anchovies.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Pirate boat

There is no other reason for this blog post today than one photo. This is a boat I saw in Morro Bay in September. (Really close to talk like a pirate day, I must add). It's a pretty cool boat.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

San Juan Island: Part 3

Welcome back for the third and final part of my trip to Washington in October. The photos today are from the whale watching boat trip I took and the final night driving back down to Seattle.

My biggest hope in Washington was to see orcas. I did get the opportunity to see two transient orcas on the hunt for food while in the Haro Straight. Before we got to the orcas we saw some harbor and dall's porpoises and stellar sea lions. I'll start with the nice weather conditions we had on the water. Below is our boat wake.

I see harbor porpoises a lot in California, but they are really hard to photograph and don't typically make very interesting photographs. There are two harbor porpoise photos below. The first is what you typicallt see. A small triangular dorsal fin for about .5 seconds. Then they are gone. This is why I really like the second photo, which is an adult and calf. They have really odd shaped bodies and are the smallest cetacean. These particular porpoises were riding in the wake of our boat, once again, a rare sight.

Harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)
Harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)
 A first for me was to get to see Dall's porpoise. They are incredibly fast porpoises who often like to bow ride and surf boat wakes. They are very distict with the frosting tipped dorsal fin seen below. It was great to finally see them in person. 
Dall's porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli)
Below are the rest of the photos from the trip leading up to seeing orcas. The two orcas that we saw were a male and female transient pair who are seen often in the straight. We didn't get to spend too long with them, but since they were hunting while we were around them, they were very quiet (they put a hydrophone in the water) and didn't do any playful actions such as breaching, spy hopping, or tail slaps. They are still a sight to see.

Common murre (Uria aalge) father and chick. Males teach the baby how to fish.

Lime Kiln state park lighthouse
Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Male transient orca (Orcinus orca)
Orca (Orcinus orca)
Male orca (Orcinus orca)
Orcas (Orcinus orca) in Haro Straight

On our way back to Friday Harbor, we took some time to stop and check out the unusual ungulates at Spieden Island. Spieden Island is a privately owned island that was stocked with exoctic deer, sheep, antelope and goats. We saw fallow deer (Dama dama) and Mouflon sheep (Ovis orientalis). We also saw a bald eagle and some harlequin ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus).
Fallow deer (Dama dama)

Fallow deer (Dama dama)

Fallow deer (Dama dama)

Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Harlequin ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus), the males are brightly colored and the females are brown.

Harlequin ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus)

Harlequin ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus)
Finally for the last two photos of the trip, I leave you with Mount Rainier at sunset (taken on the ferry back to Anacortes) and Seattle at night (on the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island).
Mount Rainier

Seattle skyline

Monday, November 25, 2013

San Juan Island: Part 2

Welcome back! Here are some more photos from my trip to Washington last month. These photos are from day 3 which was spent traveling around and exploring the island. San Juan isn't too big, but there is a ton to explore. I started the morning at Roche harbor.
Looking over Roche Harbor
Fall colors

Roche Harbor at sunrise
The mouth of Roche Harbor.

After leaving Roche harbor, I traveled over to the west side of the island where I was also camping that evening (At San Juan county park). SJI has a lot of Madrona (also called madrone, Arbutus menziesii) trees. These trees are known for their stunning red bark that peels off.

Madrona tree (Arbutus menziesii) bark

Madrona tree (Arbutus menziesii) bark peeling

Madrona tree (Arbutus menziesii)

While at the park and waiting for the sun to set, I saw Columbia black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus). This pair was a mom/fawn.

Columbia black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus)
Columbia black-tailed deer fawn (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus)
Columbia black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus)
  I also watched a hungry red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis). 
Red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)

Red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)

Moon rising over the trees

The end of photography for the day was the sunset. Since I was on the west side of the island, I watched the sun set behind British Columbia (which I was close enough to that my phone thought I was in Canada and texted me the outrageous roaming rates!)

To end this blog post, I am going to start the 4th day. I did a little more island exploration before heading out on a whale watching boat in the afternoon. I started at False Bay (which is on the southwest side of the island) and it was a bit foggy and low tide which made the bay look somewhat prehistoric.

Then I headed down to the southern tip of the island which was mostly closed due to the government shutdown. I saw another mom/fawn pair of Columbia black-tailed deer on the cliff above Eagle cove. 
Columbia black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus)

And with that, I will wait until the next blog post for the whale watching trip and my final day in Washington. Stay tuned!